Frigs are forever exploring. Sure, each song from the Canadian four-piece feels like a short, sharp, shock, but the way the music tumbles inward and rises outward, veers left and surges right, seems to break every rule going, and establishes a few new ones in the process.
The band hinges on the friendship between Bria Salmena (of shrieking vocals) and Duncan Hay Jennings (of shrieking guitar), two musicians who met while studying at Montreal’s Concordia University. Although the project only got off the ground during their final months in the Francophone city, their boundary-less post-punk owes a debt to Montreal’s atmosphere of freewheeling creativity.
“We started the band to play this one-off random show, just this party in someone’s house,” Bria recalls. “Then we decided to continue and shortly after that we end up back in Toronto, and people wanted to hear the band play so we decided continue it.”
She adds: “I mean a lot of our friends were artists, and we’re friends with a lot of other musicians as well, and that definitely paid a part and I think motivated us to put something together.”
A band with deep roots in the Canadian underground, Frigs started off by playing shows with friends, an anything-goes atmosphere that allowed their fetid post-punk to expand in curious directions. Debut album ‘Basic Behaviour’ is fascinating; it’s visceral, for sure, but beneath those barbed wire riffs lies a real intelligence, an incredible intent of purpose.
“For a lot of the songs we had this idea that we wanted them to be kind of structured but in a strange way,” Duncan insists. “The open-endedness comes from the type of songwriting we do, it’s just a little bit weird. Especially with the newer stuff that we’re writing now, we don’t really follow a traditional song structure, we don’t give a shit about middle eights and choruses or whatever, it’s more just somehow figuring out what belongs within the same world.”
A record that continually criss-crosses itself, ‘Basic Behaviour’ is like a post-punk Escher puzzle. Self-produced with the assistance of engineer Ian Gomes, it’s the result of countless rehearsals, practices, and recording sessions.
“We have been working on the record for a while,” Duncan says. “But I think the record is of two halves, in our minds. It was recorded in two very different settings. One being a home studio that we had set up, and then the other half-finished in a full studio”.
A ten track blast of noize, ‘Basic Behaviour’ keeps its literary streak hidden – yet if you search for it, it’s there, just underneath the surface. Album standout ‘Doghead’ for example, was directly inspired by a Nick Cave novel, a moment when life, art, and studio intent click into place.
“When you read books sometimes you underline them, and write down passages somewhere,” Bria recalls. “I think at the time I was thinking about something personal, and that line jumped into my head. I remembered it. And it seemed to fit however I was feeling at the time when we were playing the song together.”
“We were playing the song and I was improvising lyrics, and I can usually be able to build it from there. It came about quite naturally, but it was interesting how it came into my brain as a memory when it was associated with a personal feeling.”
Out now on Arts & Crafts, ‘Basic Behaviour’ opens a key chapter for the Canadian group, with Frigs plotting their first trip to Europe later in the year. Audiences are in for something special, too, with their chaotic but supremely well arranged post-punk puzzles jettisoned with absolute fury. It’s an energy that in turns influences their songwriting, and is a factor in their debut’s striking sound and approach.
“It’s really fun for us to try out new songs live,” reveals Bria. “One of the songs on the album is something we wrote during a soundcheck. It was so funny that it became something serious when we got home. “I think once again it works both ways for us,” Duncan adds. “We really benefit, and we really enjoy bringing these songs into the live setting. I guess, from there, based on how we feel playing in front of people and just based on the crowd’s reaction, can influence our songwriting. Kind of give it a blessing, in a way.”
Headstrong and resolutely independent, Frigs need no blessing but their own.
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'Basic Behaviour' is out now.
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